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Hopes and Realities in Relations Between Russia and Japan: Is a Breakthrough Possible?


During the last 5 years, Russia and Japan have been able to widen and deepen bilateral ties in many spheres, including politics, economics, and culture. At the same time, the further qualitative improvement of bilateral relations is hampered by strong influence of an enduring negative historic memory of Japanese society toward Russia mostly due to the so-called Northern Territories syndrome. The formation of Russia’s image in Japan is also strongly influenced by a number of time-limited factors, such as the state leader’s popularity, single-moment events, empiric experience, and others (Streltsov 43). In this paper, the author traces the recent history of the territorial dispute between two countries and then attempts to evaluate the influence exerted by four time-limited factors: the triple disaster in Japan (as an example of the implications of natural disasters), the two leaderspolitical aspirations, mutual trust, and popularity at home (as related to the personal features of President Putin and Prime Minister Abe), on the two countries’ approach toward signing a peace treaty and solving the territorial dispute. According to the author’s hypothesis, the strategic vision of Putin and Abe and their trustworthy relationship are playing the key role in improving ties between the two countries. Moreover, due to its importance for these ties, this paper considers the geopolitical environment of the Russo–Japan relations and the current state and perspective for bilateral energy cooperation. Finally, the author turns to an evaluation of whether a long-overdue compromise on the territorial dispute could be reached anytime soon.

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Correspondence to Sergey Sevastyanov.

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Sevastyanov, S. Hopes and Realities in Relations Between Russia and Japan: Is a Breakthrough Possible?. East Asia 34, 39–62 (2017).

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  • Energy cooperation between Russia and Japan
  • Personal features and mutual trust of President Putin and Prime Minister Abe
  • Territorial dispute between Japan and Russia
  • The triple disaster in Japan